Belgium is a small country, but one that has plenty to offer to its visitors. A lot of traditional products individualize this small patch of land in Europe. Who has never heard of waffles, Belgian chocolate, Cuberdons (or Neuzekes, as they are nicknamed due to their shape similar to a nose) or Belgian beer?
Well, you most definitely have heard about the last one, as it is famous all over the world, for its flavors and diversity. It really is a shock that a country so small has been able to produce so many varieties of beer. You can find a wide range of flavors, from the sweetest to the most bitter here. There’s a lot to to say about how you should choose one, but, one aspect that Belgians stress when it comes to drinking this old traditional beverage is employing a special glass. And you’ll see when you go there that each beer you order comes with its own type of glass that is able to make the most of its taste. If you spend more time there, we recommend you try all the beers you can find, but, if you’re just passing through, you can choose from the following:
The most popular: Duvel
I am not an expert and not even a Belgian, so I won’t say this is the most popular beer there, but it is definitely one that Belgians consume with much pleasure. Duvel has not only a wonderful golden color, but, when it is poured in its special glass, it forms a thick layer of foam that is nothing I’ve ever seen in any other beer. This is a strong pale ale beer with an alcohol content of 8.5 %, which gives us a hint on the origins of its name, translated from Dutch as Devil. Duvel has a bitter, crispy taste that makes it almost addictive from the first glass. This beer is usually made with two hop varieties, but Duvel has launched a special edition a couple of years ago made with three hop varieties, which I highly recommend and which was so popular when it got on the market, that a Facebook group was created by those who wanted more of the new assortment. Be careful though, this is also stronger, as it contains 9.5 % alcohol.
The Trappist: Westmalle
Firstly, let’s talk a bit about what Trappist means. Generally, we call Trappist those beers that are brewed inside a monastery (that’s right, you read correctly). Why is this important for Belgian beer? Well, nowadays, there are 11 monastery located breweries in the world: 1 in the United States, 1 in Austria, 1 in Italy, 2 in the Netherlands and 6 in Belgium. I’m sure now it’s pretty clear why.
Westmalle is one of the strongest pale ale beers, as it contains 9.5 % (way to go monks!) alcohol, one of the tastiest and one of the most popular in Belgium and in many other countries, as it has gained international renown. This Trappist beer has a subtle aroma in which you can feel a taste of yeast. It has a dark color and it is served in a sturdy glass that resembles a goblet. I assume that the sturdy structure of the glass was designed to keep it in one piece, since this beer can get you positively wasted after a couple of glasses.
The most special: Duchesse de Bourgogne
When you first taste this beer, you get the impression that maybe you made a mistake and ordered a bottle of wine (maybe you had too much beer before this one), but then you look at the label and you see spelled beer. This is not your average type of beer, in its small bottle and with its reddish, wine-like nuance, it definitely makes you think about wine – and it also tastes like one, the kind that was maybe preserved in bad conditions and has acquired a sour, but still a bit sweet flavor. However, I guarantee that you’ll love it, if you taste it with an open mind. You’ll also love its finesse bottle and glass and you’ll come back for more.
Nevertheless, these three varieties can only give you a basic image about how wonderful and unexpected Belgian beer can be. To taste them all, well, maybe you should just find a job and move there for a couple of years.